My sanctuaries

My father gave me chess and unlocked the door to reading. My mother and father opened the wondrous world of books and classical music for me. I loved certain pieces of classical music so much, my request to have them playing on the record player so I could listen as I went to sleep was rarely, if ever, denied. These beautiful places of sanctuary have always welcomed me, no matter the moment my life.

It is true that life can wallop any of us so hard the pain puts us out of action, for a time. Time, for me, in which I can’t always find my way back to books, chess, music. However, it is never lost on me that they’re there, waiting. They never abandon me.

***

For SCK & VBK

No one is disposable

If you are treating someone as if they are disposable, stop it. If you are being treated as if you are disposable, stop it. No human being is disposable. What’s more, a healthy relationship of any kind is impossible.

If anyone treats someone else as if they are disposable,  they don’t just wound the other person, they wound themselves! What makes this true? The pattern of treating others as if they are disposable makes it impossible for other person to be close to you.  This pattern of behavior is what I call a distance-maker. Something a person does that keeps others as at a distance.

I’m 65. I’ve been on my own since December 1969 when my mother had me put in reform school and disowned me, having me declared an “emancipated minor” meaning that I was the sole person responsible for keeping me alive. My father, the greatest gift my life has given me, died in August 1969.  I was disowned by my mother and never allowed back into the family again. I know what it is to be treated as if I was disposable. I have a nephew, Joe. A beautiful a human being. A really good man.  The narrative of his life is his to tell. That said, I think it is a safe bet he knows what it is to be treated as if he was disposable being, just as deep  as I do.

For those stuck in this pattern, the questions are not, why am I  bad person? Or, why am I  mean ? You’re not bad or mean. The behavior is mean, but a behavior does not define the all of you. Perhaps the more salient question you might want to ask is this.  How did I come to believe (how was I taught) that intimacy between people was dangerous for me?

Two more thoughts. First, it is more likely than not that those treating others as if they are disposable don’t realize that’s what they’re doing.  Second, it is likely those caught in this behavior’s web fat the moment have been treated as if they’re disposable somewhere back down the line. They deserve compassion too.

The Sweet Taste of Morning

The first hour, the delicious sounds of birds singing, the light only just making its way into the day, water on for that exquisite first cup of coffee. This morning the ground wet from through-the-night thunderstorms, more glory! A look through binoculars at the vegetable garden (don’t want to miss anything), smiling at the sight of newborn tomatoes. From nothing but a seed they are? Well then, aren’t we all?

Then it comes, that familiar unwelcome chill of fear, a feathery slightness to it, momentary. I am in my home, the place to be. Water ready now, coffee made. This morning in my Hummingbird mug. My father and I deciding so many years ago that Hummingbirds are signs of good luck. The feather touch of fear still there I go stand by my books and the fear, like a frightened animal, flees. The comfort of books, the comfort of books runs so deep. All of them are my friends, with me always, each there own world living safely in my home. Good company always.

And I know this sweet tasting morning is extra special. I am seven years sober today. I am alive and I am me, fully me savoring the sweet taste of morning. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Damn Ants

I am two years old visiting Mommom and Poppop in Rumson. New Jersey. Mommom and Poppop are my mother’s parents and I adore them, especially Poppop. They have boats and a house on Highland Avenue that looks out over a canal that leads onto the Navesink River towards the Oceanic Bridge. Their home is a heaven to me.



I love Mommom and Poppop, especially Poppop. He reminds me of Jimmy Stewart. He speaks in a stumbling, soft-voiced cadence. His eyes always glow warmth and kindness. He also smokes a pipes. He keeps several of them in a lovely wooden pipe rack near his large wing chair. I love to put the pipes in my mouth and pretend I’m just like Poppop and my father. My father smokes pipes too. Both would prefer I play with the pipes only when they are around.



But I am an early riser.



Early one morning I crawl out of bed, make my way into the living room, climb up into Poppop’s large wing chair, remove one of his pipes from the rack, and pretend to puff away. Pieces of smoked tobacco fall from the pipe and speckle me in my white t-shirt and underwear. I don’t care. I’m having fun sitting in this big wing chair just like Poppop. I look out the window with the pipe stem firmly clamped in my teeth. I have to hold the pipe with my hand because it is heavy. I hear a sound, turn, and there is Poppop looking right at me, trying desperately to look annoyed at me for playing with his pipes when he wasn’t there.



I look down at the black speckles of tobacco all across my front and brush them away saying, “Damn ants!”



Peter & Poppop circa 1955

_______________________________________________________________

The Possibility of Sunlight

Of another relationship I say, maybe, just maybe. But not necessary. It is the page that draws me stronger now. On relationships I stay open, never pull the blinds to the possibility of sunlight. And while there are many whose hearts are steadfast in their desire for intimacy, few can actually live it. And that is the only landscape for my stride.

There are the array of partial intimacies, connections between two people, where, like two not quite fitted puzzle pieces, some of the edges align, and for that, anyone would be wise to be grateful.

In the meantime, I am drawn to the page, to the book, and, again, finally, to the physical. The long walks, the trails, the summiting moments, to climb back on the bike and break the hills that are like weeds in their prevalence here. And again to the gym, solitary in my task, regaining the vessel’s tone.

Then to the page, the garden, the sweet air, and always with the blinds open to the possibility of sunlight.
___________________________________________________________________